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Stacey Vanek-Smith: Spinal cord injuries can rob people of the ability to move and speak. Technology does exist to help the disabled, but it’s got limitations. Now scientists have a new system that uses the tongue. From North Carolina Public Radio, Janet Babin has more.
Janet Babin: Swish your tongue around your mouth for a second. It’s a pretty flexible muscle. And it’s directly connected to your brain through a cranial nerve. So it’s not usually hurt during a spinal cord injury.
Georgia Tech researchers say that’s why it’s the basis of their new communication system. The tongue gets pierced with a tiny magnetic tracer. Sensors then pick up tongue movements, send a signal to a laptop and, presto, you’ve turned your tongue into a computer joystick.
Georgia Tech Professor Maysam Ghovanloo says the tongue can control all sorts of objects for the disabled:
Maysam Ghovanloo: They can drive their wheelchair by just moving their tongue — turn many other applications such as turning the light on and off, a phone, a powered bed, a TV, anything you can think of.
Start-up funding came from foundations, but Ghovanloo says he’s just received offers from private companies interested in licensing the technology.
I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.
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